Monday 17th October 2011
There was me thinking I'd been really clever and organised. Usually at the end of the Fringe I totally forget to make any record of the show that I have perfected over the previous three months. Then it comes to doing the show again and I have to try and piece it together from memory. This year I got Sam, my brilliant tech, to record the last two shows. All the little nuances of the performance would be there on CD waiting for me when I had to do the show again. Of course I didn't get the CDs out until the day before I had to do the show again (almost two months after the last performance) and when I put them in my computer DVD drive my computer (perhaps influenced by the ghost of Jobs) said that it couldn't be read. I tried it in my DVD player and my car CD player (the only one I now have after dumping all my old electronics) and it didn't work there either. Maybe it would work in a PC, but I don't have a PC any more because I gave that away as well. I KNEW I should have carried on hoarding everything. In the end all I could find was some recordings I did on my iPhone before Edinburgh. It should be enough to jog my memory (and in all likelihood the whole show is still up there somewhere anyway), but there may be a few newer ideas that have vanished into the ether along with that blog from the other day. Unlike that blog, with stand up, every now and again you do manage to reclaim a forgotten bit as it pops back into your brain.
It will be fun to get this show back up on its feet and gradually transform it into a 90-100 minute show, but judging from the recording at the Live Theatre in Newcastle that I listened to half of today, all I will have to do is slow down a bit and I'll be there.
I got a bit distracted by Twitter today, further discussing Ricky Gervais' "mong" comments. I have blogged about it and didn't want to really add much or get to the situation where I was @ing in Ricky himself (mainly if I am honest because he seems to have been encouraging his followers to go on the offensive against anyone who complains and call them "mongs"), so most of what I said was in conversations with others, rather than open tweets. I think it's important that the point is made about the effect that casual disablist language can have, but I think I have made it. But in any case the tweets got out there and I had a small amount of backlash (amongst much support) from Gervais fans who accused me of looking for publicity and jumping on a bandwagon. Had I ever cared about these issues before this week? asked one person. I was able to send links to several warming ups from the last 7 years to show that I had. Others cleverly pointed out that I seemed to have done controversial and potentially offensive topics in the past and threatened to take say, the Hitler moustache photo out of context. But I had to point out that I wasn't taking Ricky's comments out of context. I have read them all and seen the context. And the fact that I am a comedian who experiments with offence and pushing boundaries should really be an indication that something is up if I am saying there has been a misjudgement. I am not offended my Ricky "reclaiming" the word "mong" (though I don't think it's his position to attempt this), I just think it's a bit odd and pathetic to be doing what he's doing and I don't agree that the word is harmless. But no one is trying to ban anything - I have used the word "mong" in this blog (oh, I've done it again). And as I've also said there's loads of comedy in disability and our attitudes towards it. But ironically enough, by Ricky's 300,000+ followers taking his lead and using the word against people (including me today) they are demonstrating why it is misguided of him to use the word in the first place. I don't think he has found a way to make it mean something different, but his fans definitely haven't (here's the latest example - "Who the hell is Richard Herring? I'd call him a mong, but I don't want to insult mongs!! :-)" - is that man using "mong" to mean something other than disabled? Don't think so). And the term is suddenly proliferating, which is making life uncomfortable for the disabled people I have been in contact with. Which seems a shame. I guess having done these two Objective shows on the golliwog and the wheelchair has made me more acutely aware of how these names affect people.
Ricky blogged about it tonight, but not in a very satisfying way. He says people asked him if he would "discuss" the N word, but I don't think anyone would mind him discussing the word "mong". He's not. He's just using it. And then saying there's nothing wrong with it. He links to a couple of clips which he says show him discussing the N word. I don't see it in the Sesame St one (unless he means "necrophilia") and in the other clip it seems to be other people discussing "nigger" and him admitting he wouldn't say it on stage. Which seems to confirm the point I was making really. He is sitting amongst the greatest stand ups in the world in that clip, one of whom knows he can not do comedy around that word and two who have found a way to do it. It's not the subject or the word that is out of bounds. It's just the casual, Jim Davidson/Chubby Brown style pointless use of it, getting laughs simply for saying it, confirming stereotypes. I don't think I linked to it last time, but this is Chubby's take on the golliwog in which he's pretty much making the same points as Gervais but about the racist epithets that he considers "harmless". Has Ricky wandered into the wrong TV studio? Should he be discussing comedy with Davidson and Brown, not Rock and Seinfeld? Is he allying himself with Carol Thatcher saying it's freedom of speech to be able to use the word "Golliwog" or "mong" and if you can't then it's political correctness gone mad?
I am a fan of much of Gervais' work, but wonder why he's so entrenched on his views on this one and not sure it really serves his cause to make people wonder if he is laughing at or with disabled people when he's about to launch his new TV show, Life's Too Short.
Gervais tweeted, "Dear fans. Don't give the haters any attention. Those people aren't really offended by the things I say - they are offended by my success."
Personally I am not offended by either, just think what he is saying is a bit pathetic and in danger of undermining him as a thoughtful/intelligent comedian. Lovely to have that kind of self-belief and I know that successful people do get knocked by jealous people, but that doesn't mean that every person who criticises you is jealous or that everything you say and do is definitely right. There are loads of things I've done where I have fucked up - I got some light complaints today about a potentially homophobic remark I had made during my improvised set in Soho on Saturday. It had not been my intention, but I agreed I hadn't expressed myself well in the heat of the moment and apologised. I know very well about knee-jerk defence to any criticism as I have done it myself. I know what it is to get hundreds of complaints for a routine, but I think it's important to keep an open mind and think about whether offence caused is justified. The comedian has to look into his heart and mind and decide if what he's doing is worth the aggro. Part of the job is to upset and offend and make people think, especially when they have done something to deserve it. I can't see the point in this case. Some comedians, like Sadowitz can use these words and turn them into thought provoking comedy. Gervais is not doing the same here, as far as I can tell.
Oh balls, wasn't going to get dragged back into this quite so far. I'll leave it there. Thanks for your comments Ricky Gervais fans. But have a look at some of my stuff. I am not saying never say anything offensive. I am saying think about who you choose to offend. It's the most powerful people in society who need to be satirised at the moment, not the least powerful.
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